Philippine activists call to end humanitarian crisis in Kachin State and sectarian-violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan

Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (FBC-P) and Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
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“The recent humanitarian crisis in Kachin state and the worsening sectarian violence in Arakan clearly illustrate that despite the perceived democratic reforms, human rights violations continue to thrive in Burma. Today, we offer this birthday candle for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to give a light of hope to the peoples of Arakan and Kachin who still live in darkness.”

Thus said Egoy Bans, spokesperson of the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-P) as the group together with other solidarity activists from the Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) staged a public demonstration today in front of the Burma embassy in Makati City, Philippines in line with the international celebration of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s 67th birthday.

Born on 19 June 1945, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate symbolizes the peoples of Burma’s continuing struggle for freedom, peace and democracy. She has been under house arrest for almost 15 of the last 21 years by Burma’s military regime but won a seat in the Burma’s parliament this year after she was released from house detention.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN KACHIN

Carrying a giant replica of a birthday candle for Aung San Suu Kyi, the FBC-P and APSOC during the rally raised the issue of humanitarian crisis happening in Kachin State Burma for a year now where more than 75,000 people were already displaced due to heightened military operations.

Recent reports confirmed that fighting occurs almost everyday in Kachin State in Burma where internally displaced persons now live in squalid conditions with no access to assistance from local or international aid organizations. Human rights violations such as burning of villages, rape of women, torture and killings of civilians were also reported as a result of the continuing armed conflict in the said area.

SECTARIAN-VIOLENCE IN ARAKAN STATE

The group likewise expressed concern over the recently reported sectarian-violence between Arakan Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims in the State of Arakan in western Burma. Reports said the violence erupted on June 3, 2012, when an estimated 300 Arakan Buddhists attacked a bus of traveling Muslims, killing 10 passengers. The angry mob according to some reports was reacting to information that an Arakan girl was allegedly raped and murdered in late May by three Muslim suspects.

The move follows rioting last week in two Rakhine areas that state media say left at least seven people dead and 17 wounded, and saw hundreds of houses burned down. On June 10, President Thein Sein of Burma declared a state of emergency in the area, authorizing the military to significant and sweeping administrative powers.

“The situation now reached its alarming stage and may spiral out of control if those who should do something will not take the immediate and necessary steps. We call on the UN and other international agencies and diplomatic missions to help in finding meaningful resolutions to the ongoing conflicts in Arakan and Kachin states,” Bans added.

Bans explained, “Declaring a state of emergency by simply using the powers of the military were proven to be inadequate and the Burmese government cannot escape responsibility in not only preventing the escalation of these conflicts, but also in causing it because of its previous laws and policies that are still in effect.”

Meanwhile Malou Tabios-Nuera of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said, “If the government of Burma is sincere in correcting its past mistakes, it should welcome an inclusive and genuine political dialogue as a crucial ingredient of reform and nation building. These conflicts cannot be solved militarily. A win-win political solution can be achieved if the government will truly recognize, uphold and protect the fundamental human rights of the peoples of Burma.”

FBC-P and APSOC also urged the Burmese government to allow access of foreign diplomats and international humanitarian aid agencies to the conflict areas to assess the situation.

“We challenge the sincerity of the Thein Sein administration to democratic reforms. They must work hand in hand with Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the parliament to amend or repeal the existing repressive and discriminatory laws and policies that contribute to the aggravation of conflicts in Burma. They must heed the demands of the peoples of Burma for genuine democratic transformation, especially women, who continued to be used as tools for war in times of conflict situations. Without a sincere commitment and strong political will from the government, these conflicts will continue to happen,” Tabios-Nuera concluded.

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